Dear Big Move,
We live in Minnesota.
Do I qualify for a split share of property after 20 years of not paying the mortgage?
My ex-husband was the only one making the payments, but both our names are on the property and the deeds.
We bought the property in 2006 and each paid $20,000 toward the down payment. After two years, we refinanced the mortgage, and we each received $40,000 in 2008.
He recently defaulted on the homeowners-association fees. They contacted me, and I started paying.
If we sell, do I get a share of the house?
Yes, you are legally entitled to half the share of that property, even if you did not make the mortgage payments.
It may seem unfair to your ex-husband, but whether you paid or did not pay the mortgage does not affect your ownership under the law.
In most cases, if your name is on the deed, you own half of the property. He can buy out your share, or you could buy out his half if you wanted full ownership.
If you can come to an arrangement amicably, a quitclaim deed would remove either spouse from the title and change the property from joint ownership to sole ownership.
Alternatively, if you do not wish to continue paying the HOA fees, you could file a partition action with the court to force a sale.
It’s surprising that your divorce settlement did not settle this property’s ownership. Contact your divorce attorney and make sure that you didn’t miss anything that was stated about the division of property.
Unexpected financial consequences
For other married couples, your experience provides a cautionary tale, as it shows the importance of a prenuptial agreement and — at the very least — making sure all loose ends are tied up at the time of a divorce.
A prenup is a written contract for a couple’s marriage or civil union that clearly sets out the ownership of assets. Crucially, this states what happens to those assets in the event of a divorce. This typically includes all assets — from cars and real estate to investment accounts and retirement funds.
If you have a prenup and get divorced, your assets and properties are divided according to the prenup, according to Rocket Mortgage. In “most cases, the prenup usually overrides state laws about property distribution,” the company adds.
But always check with a lawyer.
If the ownership of this house was not dealt with at the time of your divorce, your ex-husband will also likely need to lawyer up.
‘The Big Move’ is a MarketWatch column looking at the ins and outs of real estate, from navigating the search for a new home to applying for a mortgage.
Do you have a question about buying or selling a home? Do you want to know where your next move should be? Email Aarthi Swaminathan at [email protected].
By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.